Fuel your row with real food!
This year, Head of Schuylkill Regatta has partnered with Whole Foods Market’s Healthy Eating Specialist, Kathleen Wood, to give you some tips and ideas on how to fuel up to feel your best and optimize your rowing performance. Visit Whole Foods Market for more wellness tips and healthy recipes!
WHAT TO EAT WHEN! Tips for Endurance Athletes
Endurance athletes need to be especially conscious of their food choices throughout their training. In the week, days and hours leading up to the big event, it’s even more important. Here is a plan for what to eat in order to maximize your performance come race time!
1 week before
Pre-hydrate with fruits, veggies and water-heavy foods
Most people focus on the day of a race, but getting serious about hydration a full week before a big event helps train your body to maintain proper hydration more effectively on race day. Pre-hydrate throughout the week leading up to a big event or long training session by eating foods that contain high amounts of water like fruits, vegetables, soups, and smoothies. Add chia seed to your diet this week. Naturally high in omega-3 fats and covered in hydrophilic soluble fiber—Chia seeds absorb about 10-12 times their weight in water (watch the gel form around them when put in water). This unique characteristic means chia seeds help your body prolong hydration and retain electrolytes, promoting endurance and recovery in your training.
3 days before
Glycogen is how your body stores extra carbohydrates and it’s the most easily accessible form of energy. Keep in mind that you can’t fill up your glycogen supply from just one meal, so start carb-loading two or three days before your race. During a long rowing session you burn both glycogen and fat, but fat is not as efficient, which means your body has to work harder to convert it into fuel. This is why you’ll want to fill your muscles with glycogen before the race. Try to get your carbs from high quality, whole food-based sources like grains, rice, oatmeal, whole grain bread, pasta, fresh juice, and fruit. Add even more carbohydrates the day before your race, and be careful not to overdo fat and protein intake, as they are hardest to digest (think red sauce instead of alfredo or meat sauce). Another tip is to eat your biggest meal earlier in evening or at lunch. You will sleep better if you’ve had more time to digest that big bowl of pre-race spaghetti!
3-4 hours before
Complex Carbohydrates (with a side of protein and fat)
A few performance-zapping blood sugar drops will teach you never to skip a pre-race meal. To avoid drops, choose complex carbohydrates from whole grains. All carbohydrates raise blood sugar, but complex carbs are digested more slowly. This raises your blood sugar at a slower, more even pace which gives you a consistent source of energy that will continue to release throughout your training session or race. The fiber in the whole grains slows the digestion of these carbs, but you can further extend their release by adding in some protein and fat. The addition of protein before activity will also help speed recovery after you are done. Options: Whole grain bread and nut butter, oatmeal with chopped nuts, whole fruit smoothie with protein powder, or brown rice and beans.
15-60 minutes before race
Eat simple carbohydrates to give your body instantly accessible energy. Choose easy to digest, high sugar foods like a banana, dried fruit, or energy gel/gummy. Research shows that runners who consume simple carbohydrates 15 minutes before running are able to run 13 percent longer than subjects who took in nothing (a handful of raisins were seen to have equal performance benefits to sports gel).
Make sure you eat whole foods or gels/gummies made from real food— you will get clean energy from products made without added chemicals, dyes or sugars.
During an event!
Simple Carbohydrates & Electrolytes (and water of course)
Eat/drink simple carbs to get sugar in your system quickly to refuel muscles. This will keep blood glucose and muscle glycogen levels up, making exercise seem easier and delaying fatigue—it’ll also make exercise more pleasurable! Electrolytes are minerals in your blood that are depleted during training. Great natural sources are coconut water, dried fruits like raisins or dates, and natural gels or gummies. Test foods during training to see how you react to them before the big event. Take in at least 30 grams of simple carbs (¼ cup raisins) and electrolytes (dried fruit or coconut water) every 60-90 minutes. Hydrate every 15 minutes.
15-30 minutes post race
Simple Carbohydrates & Protein
In the 15-60 minutes immediately following a workout, your muscles are primed to receive fuel to start the repair process. So eat/drink your recovery meal as soon as possible after you workout is complete. Consuming the right foods shortly after exercise can also help prevent muscle damage and even sickness (a drop in the immune system can occur). So respect the 15-60 minute window and refuel!
Ideally, aim for a 4-to-1 carbohydrate-protein ratio to maximize recovery. Snacks like whole grain bread with peanut butter & banana, chocolate milk, cereal with milk & banana, or Lara Bars have the correct ratio.
1-3 hours post race
Eating a good meal a few hours after your event will support the rest of your recovery. Incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables to bring your body back from the acidic state created by intense exercise. Keep hydrating and get some extra protein to support muscle repair. A thick protein shake is a great way to help your muscles recover. Go ahead and have a treat… you earned it.